By Mary Jo
For today's Christmastide post, we'll discuss turducken .Yankee that I am, I had never heard of this dish until I moved to Maryland, which is south of the Mason Dixon line, though barely. I vaguely thought it was an old traditional dish from Maryland's Eastern Shore and was popular around the holidays. It consists of a deboned chicken stuffed into a deboned duck stuffed into a mostly deboned turkey. (Wings and legs kept their bones for aesthetic reasons, I presume.) There is also bread or sausage dressing. In other words, it's one heck of a lot of very solid poultry!
I've never had turducken, but when a nice boutique-ish grocery store near me advertised it for the holidays, I figure what the heck, give it a try. It was priced by the pound, so I ordered online thinking I was ordering one pound. When I got to the store to collect my goodies, I found that the online store interpreted that as one whole turducken, and here was this huuuuuge chuck of bird. Urk! The butcher kindly cut it in half for me and it now resides in my freezer waiting for a day when I have the nerve to roast it.
Naturally I had to research this dish, as one does <G>, and Wikipedia.org informs me that the modern version is attributed to chefs in Louisiana in the mid 20th century, so Southern but not a very old tradition.
However, stuffing one animal inside of another is a very old cooking technique which goes back to the Middle Ages and even Roman times, and is called engastration. A turducken qualifies as a "three bird roast," and the British version is a Gooducken, with a chicken stuffed into a duck stuffed into a goose, since goose is a popular holiday dish in Britain.
But there are all kinds of variations using any birds and stuffings you wish. This from Wikipedia:
In his 1807 Almanach des Gourmands, gastronomist Grimod de La Reynière presents his rôti sans pareil ("roast without equal")—a bustard stuffed with a turkey, a goose, a pheasant, a chicken, a duck, a guinea fowl, a teal, a woodcock, a partridge, a plover, a lapwing, a quail, a thrush, a lark, an ortolan bunting and a garden warbler—although he states that, since similar roasts were produced by ancient Romans, the rôti sans pareil was not entirely novel. The final bird is very small but large enough to just hold an olive; it also suggests that, unlike modern multi-bird roasts, there was no stuffing or other packing
placed in between the birds.
The mere contemplation of this makes me consider turning vegetarian, but as history it's very interesting, and sounds very medieval!
Have you ever had turducken, gooducken, or one of their many cousins? If so, tell me what you think! Because one day soon I intend to confront the half-turducken in my freezer, and I want to know what to expect!